Water and sewer rates are set to rise again in 2013 for Gainesville Public Utilities customers after Gainesville City Council approved an increase Tuesday night.
Water rates will see a 3 percent hike, and sewer rates will be 3.5 percent higher effective Jan. 1.
The rate increases, which will require a final City Council vote later this month, are intended to account for rising costs in energy and water-treatment chemicals, said Mayor Danny Dunagan. They also pay off debt and prepare for future infrastructure costs for the department.
Despite the increase, city officials projected only modest bill increases for the average household customer.
In March, the utilities department estimated that the average city household currently pays about $85.95 a month for its utility bill, which includes water, sewer and trash. Proposed increases to water and sewer rates would raise bills by about $1.85, according to department projections.
Average noncity customers, who are charged twice as much for water as city residents but typically don’t use city sewer service, could see an increase of about 84 cents because of increased water rates.
However, the department is also reducing its monthly servicing fee for noncity residents from $6.44 to $4 by January 2013. Because of that, Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall projected that average, noncity water customers could actually spend $1.60 less per bill in 2013.
“I don’t want rates to ever go up,” Dunagan said Tuesday. “But I think 3 percent is a modest increase.”
The reasons for the increases are largely out of city officials’ hands, Dunagan said. One of the major infrastructure costs for the Public Utilities Department is to assist with Georgia Department of Transportation road construction.
Any time a state road expands, the city has to move its underground pipes and pay for the costs.
In January, Gainesville Public Utilities raised its water rates 4 percent and sewer rates 4.25 percent.
• Council unanimously approved an agreement to help fund the restoration of the historic Old Chattahoochee Park Pavilion, also called the American Legion Pavilion.
The structure, which has been deemed “historically and architecturally significant to Gainesville,” has fallen into disrepair, according to Jessica Tullar, city special projects manager.
As part of the agreement, Gainesville will earmark $25,000 for building materials to restore the century-old wooden structure. In return, the American Legion Paul E. Bolding Post 7 agreed to allow the city use the building to promote tourism and to conduct public safety training exercises for a 10-year period.
• Council agreed to amend its economic opportunity redevelopment plan, which could bring tax credits to businesses that bring jobs to some areas of the county.
The city, which created the plan, offered to partner with Hall County government in applying for “opportunity zones” with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. If approved, relocating or expanding businesses within designated opportunity zones are eligible for tax credits of up to $3,500 for every new job they create.
Hall County asked to expand one of the proposed zones into north Hall County along Ga. 365, where officials are seeking to bring an industrial park.
The amended plan, which still needs approval from the Hall County Board of Commissioners, would have to be approved by DCA in order for the tax credits to take effect.